By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra’s girls varsity soccer team earned their 10th win of the season on Wednesday night, beating the Dougherty Valley Wildcats 1-0 at Knowles Field.
The Lady Dogs avenged an earlier 2-0 loss on the road in San Ramon in January, and also are continuing to make a case for a top four playoff seed.
There was no doubt about it that the Bulldogs were going for it.
They came out with a new 3-5-2 formation looking to use the congested midfield to their advantage. They were able to press high up the field effectively, which was not a given considering they were debuting a few players in new positions.
Sophomore Carly Agostino usually plays in the attacking midfield role, but instead was deployed as a center forward due to her dribbling abilities.
Kayla Porche was up top with her and the two continuously did their best to get behind the back line of Dougherty Valley.
“They’re both technical, they can both beat players one-on-one,” said Marinelli of Porche and Agostino.
The senior is usually deployed out wide, but played a more central role in this formation so that sophomore Marissa D’Atri could link up with her.
“We’re going to talk about it at practice and see what were going to do,” coach Ed Marinelli said of the formation change. The Alhambra coach is still debating on whether he will keep the same tactics in the remaining Diablo Foothill matches and the North Coast Section playoffs.
In the second half the Bulldogs were pressed into a more defensive-minded game, which Marinelli said was more to re-introduce injured players back into the flow of things than actually try and preserve the one-goal lead they managed to create in the 43rd minute.
Kayla Porche scored her seventh of the season after a poor clearance from the Dougherty Valley keeper fell at her feet. She pounced on the mistake to give Alhambra the lead.
Ironically, the Bulldogs looked much more likely to score in the first half than in the second, but because they scored so early, they were forced to absorb more pressure than they had at any point in the match.
Earlier, Dougherty Valley was looking to hit Alhambra on the counter; they were more the aggressors in the final 30 minutes of the match.
Nicki Rucki made an outstanding kick save to keep the Bulldogs ahead, and her leadership organizing the back line is why Marinelli says he considers her the best keeper in the league, if not one of the best players overall.
Things got dicey in the final 20 minutes of play, so much so that you didn’t know who would be sent off first – a player, a coach, or a parent.
A two-footed challenge by a Dublin player somehow didn’t warrant a sending off, even when the player in question made an inappropriate gesture to the home fans.
Yet a 50-50 challenge where two players went for the ball saw both players cautioned.
When the final whistle screeched, neither team seemed to be happy with the official.
But at least the Bulldogs could be happy with the result.